About the Lonely 2
Together the Lonely
She’d watched recordings of herself for over a decade. But not like this:
“I’m just so grateful to be okay. And to all the beautiful people out there on social media around the world, your prayers mean everything. And listen. This stops nothing. The tour will go on, the band and my team will go on, and I’m going to bring my soul and spirit to the stage every night. The music doesn’t stop because of one loud noise.”
She watched herself dabbing manufactured tears off a face lacking a preordained amount of makeup.
“And to the man who did this.” More tears. “I forgive you. The world forgives you. You’re not alone. Turn yourself in and I promise to help in any way I can.” A fragile smile. “To the man who saved my life. I’ve heard from the authorities that you initially didn’t want your name publicized. Just know you are my guardian angel and a true hero. Please let me thank you.”
She couldn’t stomach anymore. It was the third time watching. “I was right the first two times. This is idiotic.”
“What are you talking about?” asked her manager, Beth Macleod. “It’s already the most viewed social media post in history.”
“Stop. It’s been five hours. All these years together—after this—do you really think my ego needs stroking?”
“Well,” Beth sighed. “It will be. Give it five more hours. And the networks are running it like we’re paying them, Anna. You look real. The crap lighting. You almost look unattractive. It’s perfect.”
Anna stood up from a blue velvet sofa and quickly sank her wool socks into the plush carpets of her Carlyle Hotel suite. The security team had bought the floor out and turned the place into a veritable fortress, opting to move out immediately after the shooting. After the chaos surrounding the incident, there was no way they were waiting around for the cops to show up. The authorities had since come and gone, or maybe, some were still downstairs. Anna couldn’t remember. She felt vaguely safe. But the video was still idiotic. She pulled her auburn hair up and walked over to a window, looking at the city, dirty with rain. Franklin, her head of security, put a hand out, silently suggesting she move back from the glass. Anna could see the guilt riding high on his muscled shoulders. “Sorry Franklin,” she said, hoping a gentle touch might allay the guilt.
“No need for sorry.”
“Damn right no need for sorry,” Beth brayed, popping off the couch behind Anna and Franklin. “I don’t know why you haven’t been fired yet. A maniac shoots at one of the biggest celebrities in the world! You let him get away.” In her sudden rage, Beth had thrown her cell phone down, shattering a glass coffee table worth more than an average person’s yearly income. Two of Franklin’s suited associates ran into the room, hands over their holsters, heads on a swivel. Their heavy strides seemed to shake the storied old hotel to its foundation.
“We’re fine,” Anna said, walking carefully around the glass toward the two men with a calming expression. Everybody—her agent, manager, security, they were understandably on edge. “Franklin, can you send somebody to clean this glass up? Other than that, I want the room for the next hour.”
She could see Beth sidling up next to her for some sort of argument, but she flashed a look at the manager that said, get out before you break something else and I really get mad.
The room was clean and empty within five minutes, leaving Anna her own air to breathe. It was rare, the solitude. She found herself listlessly walking around the luxury suite, examining pillows, tapping the wood of the desk in the corner, wondering if the shiny wood was mahogany or teak or something else. Anna’s entire adulthoo had been spent suspended above the materials and fabrics of life. She was made for the clouds. In a way, the aloneness made her more nervous than the fact that she’d been shot at. There was no way to explain her mind to Beth or Franklin or anybody what a decade’s worth of being a record-breaking artist was like. It took three years for her to go onstage without throwing up. Another three to get her med levels right. Now she was down to two anti-anxiety pills a day. It was a victory, beset on all sides by an unending seas of adulators, night after night. Security briefs and publicity stops day after day.
Anna flipped on the lights and the floor heater in the bathroom, splashing water on her face. She was surrounded by porcelain and marble and gold. Rare, fine craftsmanship. But not as rare as her. She was made for the clouds. Beth would whisper it in her ear every night like some weird prayer before battle. Before she made her way out to the screams of young worshipers, all waiting on perfection. Hell, made for the clouds was a lyric to one of Anna’s “songs.”
For the first time in years, she felt like writing something real. About how clouds were dangerous. About how everyone knows you’re up there but they can’t see the lightning and rain and the crashing inside. She sat on the side of the hotel bed and checked her cell phone. Only friends and loved ones had the number. If she wasn’t for the clouds, there would’ve been an unending series of concerned callers and texts.
If she wasn’t for the clouds.
She pressed the home button to see the expected; a few calls from industry people, some texts from vague celebrity friends. Anna began to cry, short, stifled bursts. Then she realized again that there was no one around. The tears came out heavy and uncensored. Oh poor you. Don’t be such a whiny bitch. The more she tried to stay the deluge, the faster it came. Anna was having a real moment, heavy-hearted, head be damned.
Because there was no one around.